Why Jesus Cannot Use the New King James Version

This is chapter 8 from Which Bible Would Jesus Use? by Jack McElroy, copyright 2013, used with permission. More information about this book can be found on Jack's website.

Why can’t the Lord choose
the ©1982 New King James Version?

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (John 7:17)

Here’s a question about the ©1982 NKJV that nobody asks...

Why did it need to be produced?

Did the Lord decide that the 1611 Authorized Version he’d been blessing for 371 years just didn’t cut it anymore? When did the best-selling, most read Bible of all time become insufficient to meet the needs of his people?

Here’s a theological question:

Do you believe that just because someone publishes a book with the title “Bible” on it that it has to be “God’s will”?

How many things have you done that were definitely “God’s will”?

Likewise, just because some academic, scholarly Christian contracts his translation services to a businessman, does it automatically follow that it’s “God’s will” just because he’s agreed to work on a book titled “Bible”?

There have been well over 100 English Bible versions published in the last hundred years. Do you think the Lord was behind them all? Even if their publishers and committee members did, that doesn’t make it so.

Consider this…

If the Lord chooses the ©1982 NKJV then he would be undermining the integrity of the brand that he established over 400 years ago.

Top brands distinguish themselves by setting a standard of quality that all pretenders to the throne must meet or be forever lost in the ordinary.

You always get what you expect from top brands because they consistently prove themselves dependable. Their quality doesn’t change over time. They give you confidence. That’s why you trust them.

It’s why people buy jewelry from Tiffany’s, luxury automobiles from Mercedes, and landmark residential condominiums from Trump.

Love ’em or hate ’em, the Trumps are some of the most successful entrepreneurs on earth.

The Trump name is synonymous with some of the most prestigious projects around the world––from deluxe residential condominiums and world-renowned architecturally significant hotels to premier golf courses and luxury resorts.

The Trump brand stands at the forefront of global real estate providing the highest level of exclusivity. They have branded prestigious landmarks around the world; from New York, Toronto, Chicago, and Los Angeles to Istanbul, Panama City, Seoul, and Manila.

Left to right Jack McElroy, Eric Trump, Susan McElroy, J.T. Foxx

The Trump Organization is owned and managed by the Trump family with Donald Trump as its CEO and three of his eldest children—Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump serving as Executive Vice Presidents within the organization.[1]

Their properties exude luxury and stand for everything that the Trump brand signifies––something they are proud of when their projects are completed.

Is the Lord any less proud of his landmark book––a book that shaped and molded a language, a people, and a nation?

It’s no wonder that the King James is more likely to be the Bible read during the week than the NIV by a 5:1 ratio.[2] The King James Bible stands alone. Its position is firmly established by a 400-year history of market domination and billions of copies sold.

The reason there is such a thing as “King James Onlyism” is because the King James Bible is the only brand millions of folks insist on. In marketing, this is known as “brand insistence.” It didn’t happen by accident. The Lord is the “brand manager.”

The Trumps jealously guard their brand––which is also their name. Their “brand” can be trusted. Financiers, bankers, developers, and other entrepreneurs are anxious to do business with them because of their reputation.

Do you think the Lord is any less jealous for the King James Bible brand and the integrity and purity of the words he’s been using for the past 400 years? His King James brand is proven. The words can be trusted.

Bearing this in mind, here’s another question…

Was the Lord even behind the
production of the ©1982

Let’s take an under-the-hood assessment to find out…

What was the publisher’s motive?

Do you assume Sam Moore, former CEO and president of Thomas Nelson, Inc., prayed and fasted before he came up with the idea that we desperately needed a “revision” of the King James Bible? Did the Lord lay a “burden” upon his heart?

Alas, the “burden” came, first of all, from…

His son.

Dr. Kenneth Barker, one of the original translators of the New American Standard Bible and New International Version, relates this story about Sam Moore and the origin of the NKJV:

However, when his son Joe asked, “Why can’t you make a Bible I can understand?” Moore decided to use the resources of his company to produce another translation.[3]

That’s just great. It’s laudable to do good things for your kids.


Building a new Bible isn’t one of them.

Barker continues…

The year was 1975. The Living Bible and the New American Standard Bible were already commercial successes. The New Testament of the New International Version was also selling well. Like those translations, the new version Moore envisioned would be produced by conservative and evangelical scholars. It would, however, have an important difference. While every major English Bible translation from 1885 to 1975 was based on a critical or eclectic text, only the King James was based on the traditional text. Moore proposed a new revision of the King James based on the same Hebrew and Greek text used by the KJV translators themselves.

In a series of meetings in Chicago, Illinois; Nashville, Tennessee; and London, England, Moore explained his proposal and solicited the support of conservative evangelicals. His idea even won the praise of many fundamentalists who previously had been suspicious of any attempt at revision of the King James.[4]

All successful businessmen test the water temperature before they leap into the pool. So Mr. Moore floated a trial balloon. He saw he could get leadership acceptance and invested $4 million in the project.[5]

He knew that if he could convert even a small percentage of King James Bible users to his new product then, like the marketers say, he’d absolutely “crush it.” With the backing of leadership to use in promotion of the book, Moore was ready to dive in.[6]

Did any conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists wonder if the Lord had an opinion? Or did they just think it was a “good idea”?

Moore is a Christian and an outstanding entrepreneur.[7] He had been publishing Bibles since 1963. Thomas Nelson, Inc., sells books; some of them have the name Bible on them. The brand of Bibles isn’t the issue.

They sell Bibles; more than 6 million copies annually––any brand. So the question of whether or not it was the Lord’s will that a “competing” Bible should be produced probably never crossed his mind. They’re all good.

But let’s consider…

The translation committee.

Did the fellows that agreed to be on the committee to “revise” the translation of the 1611 King James Bible do so because they just had to...

sensitively polish the archaisms and vocabulary of the 1611 King James version in order to preserve and enhance its originally intended beauty and content[8]

… or did they logically justify their decision after they emotionally decided that it was in their personal interest to be on the committee? Was the idea of memorializing themselves in a printed work of such great import as translating the Bible what compelled them?

The ©1982 NKJV was a wonderful business opportunity for both the publisher and the committee who worked on it.

But this isn’t some ordinary product. When it comes to the Bible, you’ve stepped into another realm. You’re dealing with the eternal words of the living God. That’s a scary thought; and a great responsibility before God.

He knows the hearts of men. He knows all our motives. And he knows the hearts and motives of the men who were involved in the project.

But let’s give the benefit of the doubt and suppose the committee really was burdened because they felt the body of Christ desperately needed a clearer and more understandable Bible.

Elmer Towns, a member of the NKJV oversight committee, said Mr. Moore’s burden was to…

Modernize the King James
word forms and spelling.

Some time ago my good friend Mr. Sam Moore of Thomas Nelson Publishing Co. in Nashville, Tennessee, shared with me his burden to publish the King James Version of the Bible in an updated translation that would retain the text, the dignity and the beauty of the 1611 version and yet provide modernization of the word forms and spellings as they are now used in the twentieth century.[9]

This all seems like “stuff and nonsense” because we’re still using virtually the same spelling and word forms used back in 1762 and 1769 when the spelling and grammar of the 1611 King James Bible was modernized. You’ll read more on this later.

Nevertheless, they made it a point to dump the “thees and thous” even though such wording is quite familiar to us from hymnals and even from TV reruns like Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons.

But (and this is even more telling) why does the ©1982 NKJV still contain difficult words?

Wrap your brain around these:

Alighting; Allays; Armlets; Befalls; Belial; Bleat; Bray; Buffet; Burnished; Caldron; Carrion; Chalkstones; Circumspect; Citron; Dainties; Dandled; Daubed; Dappled; Enmity; Entrails; Fallow; Festal; Fowlers; Fuller; Furlongs; Jackdaw; Mammon; Matrix; Paramours; Parapet; Pilfering; Pinions; plaited; Potentate; Potsherd; Poultice; Prattler; Prow; Pyre; Quadrans; Raze; Retinue; Rivulets; Rogue; Satiate; Shards; Sistrums; Skiff; Supplanted; Tamarisk; Terebinth; Timbrel; Tresses; Verdure; Verity; Waifs; Wane; Wend; and woof

And these aren’t “theologically significant” words either, like “propitiate,” “atonement,” and “reconciliation”. So it’s not like they had to translate them that way to maintain doctrine. Anyway, it’s kind of hard to believe that the only reason the ©1982 NKJV was published was because the 1611 KJB is too difficult to read.

Dr. James Price, former professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Temple Baptist Seminary (1972–2005), said:

In my early days, it never entered my mind that the King James Version needed revision into modern English because I cut my teeth on that edition of the Bible, memorizing it from early childhood. Consequently, I understood King James English as well as modern English and did not know some people had trouble comprehending it. It was not until I began teaching in seminary that I discovered I was investing a worthwhile percentage of my time teaching Elizabethan English in my classes instead of Bible. Many students did not understand (or they misunderstood) what they read in the King James Bible because of its archaic language. That encouraged me to participate in the editing of the new King James version.[10]

There are two things you should notice from this statement:

  1. Dr. Price memorized the King James Bible “from early childhood.”
  2. He said that he was “investing a worthwhile percentage of [his] time teaching Elizabethan English in [his] classes instead of Bible.”

If Dr. Price could memorize verses in the King James Bible as a child, shouldn’t he expect his seminary students to at least be able to read and understand the English text?

And in response to his complaint of spending too much “time teaching Elizabethan English in [his] classes instead of Bible,” we have to ask…

How hard is it to assign a list of vocabulary words to memorize?

We’re talking seminary students. Smart kids––the kind that take Hebrew and Greek.

Evidently, the King James Bible was so difficult for them that Dr. Price had to build a brand spankin’ new version of the Bible for them.

The fact is, any version of the Bible is loaded with many words some people don’t use (or misuse) today. Anybody who wants to really understand God’s word––in any version––has to learn a new vocabulary. They have to learn history and geography as well.

If it’s too hard for his Hebrew and Greek students to learn a few English vocabulary words, then his students could never become carpenters. They’d have to memorize words like soffit, fascia, mullion, sash, ridge, sill, and gable.

It gets worse. What if they want to play football? Imagine the confusion:

  • a “fair catch”: How pretty is it?
  • a “free kick”: How much did it cost in the old days?
  • a “Hail Mary”: A Roman Catholic prayer in football? Who knew?
  • a “nickelback”: Change for your dollar?

Although the ©1982 NKJV is translated from the same Greek New Testament and virtually the same Hebrew Old Testament as the 1611 King James Bible, it is…

A new legal biblical document…

because it contains thousands of different English words (which are protected by copyright).

It would be one thing if all the ©1982 NKJV did was to simply “polish” the archaisms in the 1611 KJB. A number of publishers have done this, but their products have gone nowhere. Polishing is one thing, but “enhancing” the vocabulary is another.

What you may not know about the
©1982 NKJV

There are material translational differences between any edition of the 1611 King James Bible and the ©1982 NKJV. There has to be. You can’t use different English words without changing the meaning in many passages. That doesn’t mean either is necessarily a wrong translational choice, it just means they’re different.

It’s what keeps lawyers in business. If you’ve ever bought a house, financed a car, or been involved in a business agreement, you know how important the choice of words is; changing words can (and often does) mean changing the deal.

Have you ever gotten “revised” wording to your credit card agreement in the mail? Your bank is putting you on notice that they’ve changed the deal. Now you get to pay a higher rate of interest.

What’s interesting about the ©1982 NKJV is the strange coincidence that some of the replacement words the committee chose turn out to be the same ones that were used in the Revised Version of 1881/1885, the American Standard Version of 1901, and other modern versions like the NASB, NIV, and RSV.

We’ll get to that in a minute.

But first…

The original language texts underlying the English translation are very much the same although not completely identical in the Old Testament.

The original 1611 King James Bible generally followed (although not entirely) the Hebrew OT text of the 1524–1525 Bomberg Edition of the Ben Chayyim Masoretic Text, whereas the ©1982 NKJV uses the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS; 1967/1977).

The BHS is based upon a different manuscript (the Leningrad Manuscript B19a) than that of the Ben Chayyim Masoretic Text. It’s been said that the differences between the two are microscopic.[11]

Nonetheless, the following differences in translation (not text) affect doctrine. For example, what’s the Lord going to teach when he comes to…

The doctrine of…

What constitutes a man? This rendering of the Hebrew word in Genesis 2 affects the cross-reference in Matthew 16:26.

Genesis 2:7

  • KJB: “... and man became a living SOUL.”
  • NKJV: “... and man became a living being.”
  • NIV: “…and the man became a living being.”

According to the King James Bible, you are a living soul and you are located in a body (or at least you used to be before the NIV and NKJV). Your soul has eyes, nose, and mouth. Your soul can see and talk. 

The biblical example is in Luke 16, the story of the rich man and Lazarus:

  1. The rich man’s body was buried:

“…the rich man also died, and was buried” (Luke 16:22).

  1. His spirit returned “unto God who gave it.”

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust (Job 34:14–15); Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? (Ecclesiastes 3:21)

  1. His soul was in hell:

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom (Luke 16:23).

Note how the King James Bible cross-references itself:

King James Bible 1611

Genesis 2:7

Matthew 16:26

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew cross-references with Genesis in the King James Bible but not in the New King James Version:

NKJV ©1982

Genesis 2:7

Matthew 16:26

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Why didn’t the NKJV ©1982 translate Matthew 16:26 this way…

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own being? Or what will a man give in exchange for his being?

They didn’t because everyone is already familiar with the saying as it appears in the 1611 KJB. The intended market for the ©1982 NKJV is evangelicals and fundamentalists who are concerned over “SOULS.” (When has anyone gone to the mall to hand out tracts and called it “living being” winning?)

Certainly in this doctrinal cross-reference passage the 1611 King James Bible is a single unified Bible and the ©1982 NKJV isn’t.

How does the Lord handle…

The doctrine of

What does the Bible say in Psalm 10:5 about the ways of the wicked?

  • NKJV (©1982) His ways are always prospering
  • King James Bible (1611) His ways are always grievous

In this case, the Lord is forced to choose between the King James Bible and the newer version. Are the ways of the wicked “always prospering” or are his ways “always grievous”?

Each Bible says and means two different things. The Lord can’t have the same verses saying two different things without looking inconsistent. And that’s exactly how he’d look if he decides to substitute the new translation for the one he’s been using for the past 400 years.

Here’s another example. Notice how this translation choice ultimately affects the inerrancy of the Scriptures:

Isaiah 9:3

NKJV (©1982)

You have multiplied the nation And increased its joy…

King James Bible (1611)

Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy…

The Lord can’t recommend both of these Bibles because they say and mean the exact opposite. One reading is true; the other isn’t. Only one can be correct, and the Lord has to choose one. He can’t pick both.

Plus, if he picks the ©1982 NKJV reading, then he contradicts the reading he’s been using for the past 400 years. That’s not so good if you’re looking for a God who’s trustworthy.

This next example has…

The doctrine of
the seed of Abraham…

carried on by a footnote. Do you always read the footnotes?

The Lord Jesus Christ is the seed of Abraham in whom the whole world is blessed. First, here are the verses in the 1611 King James Bible:

Genesis 13:15

Galatians 3:16

For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

It’s clear. Paul made a point that the OT reference was to a singular seed. Now look at what happens to the cross-reference in the ©1982 NKJV:

Genesis 13:15

Galatians 3:16

for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.

The cross-reference explanation of the Genesis 13 verse is Galatians 3:16. Abraham had many descendants. Some of whom were not even of Israel, such as Ishmael. But more importantly, Genesis 13:15 is not referring to seeds (plural) but to a singular seed, which is Jesus Christ as is made clear in Galatians 3:16.

The ©1982 NKJV loses the cross-reference twice (the same wording appears in Genesis 12:7) because it translates the text correctly as plural but uses the English word “descendants.” They footnote the verse saying, “Literally seed, and so throughout the book.”

That’s nice, but…

Should doctrine be relegated to a footnote?

The English word as it appears in the 1611 KJB is “seed,” which can be both singular AND plural. No footnote necessary. The doctrine of the seed of Abraham is carried in the ©1982 NKJV in a footnote and not in the text.

The NKJV translators and editors could have easily and properly used the word “seed.” But they chose not to. Why is anybody’s guess.

In the next case, the 1611 translators expanded on the name “Israel,” giving the literal meaning in the text.


Genesis 32:28

NKJV (©1982)

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for ___________ you have struggled with God….”

King James Bible (1611)

And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God…

The words “as a prince” are not included in the ©1982 NKJV. This is a translational choice. The ©1982 NKJV footnotes the verse saying, “Literally Prince with God.” Neither translation is wrong, but they’re different.

And how does the Lord exegete Proverbs 18:8 when he decides to teach…

The doctrine of
“Christian Ethics”?

What does the Bible really say about the words of a talebearer in Proverbs 18:8?


Proverbs 18:8

NKJV (©1982)

The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles,
And they go down into the inmost body.

King James Bible (1611)

The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

The ©1982 NKJV footnotes the verse saying, “A Jewish tradition reads wounds.” But can there be a greater difference? What a shame that the Lord couldn’t get it right the first time. By the way, the option of translating the Hebrew word as “tasty trifles” or the like wasn’t unknown to the 1611 translators. Here’s how it was translated by the Geneva Bible in 1560:

The wordes of a tale bearer are as flatterings, and they goe downe into the bowels of the belly.

Whether “tasty trifles” or “flatterings” or the way Jews read the passage, the 1611 translators chose NOT to translate the word in such manner. And that’s the way it’s stood for the past 400 years.

And how does the Lord handle…

The doctrine of


Proverbs 29:18

NKJV (©1982)

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint

King James Bible (1611)


Where there is no vision, the people perish

Both readings can’t be correct. They may be the same in Hebrew but they sure aren’t in English.

Here’s another verse that is different and has nothing to do with putting old English into modern English. Surely the Lord would have advice for childrearing. So how does he teach…

The doctrine of
“Biblical childrearing”?


Proverbs 19:18

NKJV (©1982)

Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction.

King James Bible (1611)

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.

His teaching depends on which Bible he chooses. Setting “your heart on his destruction” can mean a lot of things. “Spare for his crying” means exactly that.

There are more cases like this, but you get the point.

Thomas Nelson and the Revised Standard Version

As you will see, some of the word choices used in the ©1982 NKJV match up with the Revised Standard Version of 1952. This is significant because the RSV was roundly criticized by fundamentalists and evangelicals alike back in the day because of its liberal bias and poor theology.

If the RSV was such a bomb, why use RSV phraseology in the ©1982 NKJV?

Dr. Laurence M. Vance said:

The Revised Standard Version (RSV) was perhaps the most controversial version of the Bible ever translated. Its publication (the New Testament in 1946; the Old Testament in 1952) brought forth a multitude of books and pamphlets against it that attracted the attention of both the secular and religious press. Copies of the RSV were even burned.

The RSV relegated Mark 16:9–20 and John 7:53–8:11 to footnotes, attacked the deity of Christ by changing the punctuation of Romans 9:5, dropped the word begotten from John 3:16, replaced the word propitiation throughout the New Testament, and, in what became the most controversial passage of all, changed the word virgin to “young woman” in Isaiah 7:14. This is all in addition to the scores of omitted phrases and verses in the New Testament because of the corrupt Greek text that the RSV was translated from.[12]

Instead of ignoring the RSV and letting Mr. Market bury it like he did its predecessor, the Revised Version of 1881/1885, evangelical and fundamentalist leaders got into a tizzy. Instead of just preaching and teaching the book that had been so successful, the book their congregations actually believed, the “controversy over the RSV led to the translating of two other well-known versions, The New American Standard Bible (NASB) [and] the New International Version (NIV).”

Consider the legacy of the RSV:

NIV committee member Dr. Jack P. Lewis said:

The RSV opened the era of the multiple translations flooding today’s market, all competing with each other.[13]

Pretty interesting comment, isn’t it? Note the words “all competing with each other.” Does that sound like something the Lord is behind?

The RSV is an authorized revision of the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901. It was a production of the forerunner of what is now the National Council of Churches. The controversy stemming from the RSV helped reignite the King-James-Only Movement within the Independent Baptist and Pentecostal churches … Funding for the revision was assured in 1936 by a deal that was made with Thomas Nelson & Sons. The deal gave Thomas Nelson & Sons the exclusive rights to print the new version for ten years.[14]

By the way, in 2001, publisher Crossway Bibles released its own revision of the RSV called the English Standard Version (ESV). We’ll examine how this happened in a later chapter.

Here are a few of the many places where the ©1982 NKJV translators chose to follow the RSV vocabulary.

Job 1:1

  • KJV: There was a man … whose name was Job; and that man was PERFECT
  • NKJV: There was a man …whose name was Job; and that man was BLAMELESS…
  • RSV: There was a man … whose name was Job; and that man was BLAMELESS

Job 3:7

  • KJV: Lo, let that night be SOLITARY
  • NKJV: Oh, may that night be BARREN
  • RSV: Yea, let that night be BARREN

Job 3:8

  • KJV:Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up THEIR MOURNING.
  • NKJV: May those curse it who curse the day, Those who are ready to arouse LEVIATHAN.
  • RSV: Let those curse it who curse the day, who are skilled to rouse up LEVI'ATHAN.

Job 13:8

  • KJV: Will ye ACCEPT HIS PERSON? will ye contend for God?
  • NKJV: Will you show PARTIALITY for Him? Will you contend for God?
  • RSV: Will you show PARTIALITY toward him, will you plead the case for God?

Job 30:29

  • KJV: I am a brother to DRAGONS, and a companion to OWLS.
  • NKJV: I am a brother of JACKALS, And a companion of OSTRICHES.
  • RSV: I am a brother of JACKALS, and a companion of OSTRICHES.

These are a few examples from just one book. It would make an interesting term paper if someone were to do a comprehensive comparison.

Sometimes the translational choices of the ©1982 NKJV match up exactly with the way other modern versions translate the text too. If the wording in modern versions is unacceptable to the Lord, then why should he accept it from the ©1982 NKJV?

There are plenty more examples where the choice of wording (which is a translator’s prerogative) has nothing to do with changing thees and thous.


King James Bible

©1982 NKJV and Others

Acts 4:27

Thy holy child, Jesus

“holy child” changed to “holy servant” (NKJV, NASB, RSV)

Acts 8:9

bewitched the people

bewitched” changed to “astonished (NKJV, NASB)

Romans 1:25

changed the truth of God into a lie

exchanged the truth of God for the lie” (NKJV, NASB, NIV)

Romans 4:25

Who was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification

for” changed to “because of” (NKJV, NASB)

2 Corinthians 10:5

Casting down imaginations

“imaginations” changed to “arguments” (NKJV, NIV, RSV)

Colossians 3:2

Set your affection on things above

affection” changed to “mind” (NKJV, NASB, NIV, RSV)

1 Thessalonians 5:22

Abstain from all appearance of evil

appearance” changed to “form” (NKJV, NASB, RSV)

2 Timothy 2:15

Study to shew thyself approved unto God

study” changed to “be diligent” (NKJV, NASB)

Titus 3:10

A man that is an heretick ... reject

“heretick” changed to “divisive man” (NKJV, NIV)

The word meanings are clear in the 1611 King James Bible and they are clear in the ©1982 NKJV as well as the other versions. The words aren’t the same and don’t mean the same thing.

If we assume that the Lord was involved with the translation in the 1611 King James Bible, then we should also assume that he is pleased with the English words as they have appeared for the past 400 years.

There is no reason to assume he changed his mind in 1982 and decided to discard the wording he’s presented billions of times in 400 years.

The ©1982 NKJV was successful mainly for three main reasons:

  1. They grabbed the prefix “NEW” and attached it to their translation.
  2. They jacked the naming rights of the 1611 King James Bible for free. They named their work after a proven winner. They piggybacked on a bestseller. A brilliant marketing move.
  3. Sam Moore (the entrepreneur-owner of the publisher Thomas Nelson & Sons) also used celebrity endorsements to promote the product. Third-party endorsement with star power is a tried and true sales technique.

Who doesn't love Jerry Falwell?

Jack and Susan McElroy in front of DeMoss Learning Center at Liberty University

Falwell used the ©1982 NKJV as an appreciation gift for donation to the Old Time Gospel Hour back in the early ’80s. As a premium it did well––but not so good as a substitute for the Book the Lord’s been using for the past 400 years.

Should you use the ©1982 NKJV?

Why bother?

Even the editors who built the book
aren’t sold on it…


Their Bible has so much authority that the editors of the ©1982 NKJV actually encourage their readers to alter it as they see fit. You don’t believe it? Here’s what they said:

It was the editors’ conviction that the use of footnotes would encourage further inquiry by readers. They also recognized that it was easier for the average reader to delete something he or she felt was not properly a part of the text, than to insert a word or phrase which had been left out by the revisers.[15]

Look how their variant reading footnotes “encourage further inquiry” and make it “easier for the average reader to”…

  • “Delete” the word “yet” from the text and present Jesus a liar like the NIV, NASB, ESV, and Holman Christian Standard (HCSB) do in John 7:8–10.
  • “Delete” the phrase “without a cause,” thereby presenting Jesus a sinner like the NIV does in Matthew 5:22 and Mark 3:5.
  • “Delete” the proof text for the Trinity like the NIV, ESV, NASB, and HCSB do in 1 John 5:7–8.
  • “Delete” the proof text for the Incarnation explicitly stating that God became a man like the NIV, ESV, and NASB do in 1 Timothy 3:16.

The revisers themselves aren’t even sold on the Greek and Hebrew texts underlying the ©1982 NKJV. That’s why they worded their comment as they did. And so they gave you footnotes you can use to…

  • Eliminate 16 entire verses like the Greek text underlying the NIV, NASB, ESV, and HCSB does.

They’re even broad-minded enough to provide a footnote so you can…

  • Call Jesus a “begotten God” like the NASB does in John 1:18.

And never to be “out-scholared” by other versions, they provide a footnote so you can…

  • Purposefully insert known errors into the text like the ESV does in Matthew 1:7, 8, 10. (so much for the “inerrancy of the Scriptures”).

If they actually believed their text and wording was God’s Holy words, then why encourage their readers to edit it by using the variant readings they present in their footnotes?

The truth is that the committee members, editors, and publisher of the NKJV as well as the men who promote it really believe that only “The Original Bible” is the real Bible. And only “The Original Bible” is inspired and inerrant. The New King James Version is just a shadow of the real thing.


There’s nothing wrong with footnotes.

The 1611 and subsequent editions of the King James Bible have marginal notes, footnotes, and even notations of variant readings. It’s been noted that:

Where a Hebrew or Greek word admits two meanings of a suitable kind, the one was to be expressed in the text, the other in the margin. The same to be done where a different reading was found in good copies.[16]

And Miles Smith, one of the 1611 translators, said:

Now in such a case doth not a margin do well to admonish the Reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily? For as it is a fault of incredulity, to doubt of those things that are evident; so to determine of such things as the Spirit of God hath left (even in the judgment of the judicious) questionable, can be no less than presumption.[17]

Miles was referring primarily to the translation of a word in English––not the substitution of a variant reading found in some manuscript, even though they did make note of some textual variants.

It’s the motive that counts. The NKJV editors’ motive, by their own admission, was to make it “easier for the average reader to delete something he or she felt was not properly a part of the text.”

They provided a way for “he or she” to use the notes to undo the text that the Lord has been using for thousands of years. Do you think the Lord appreciates their motive?


The editors said they were convicted to do this. Now each reader can create a Bible after their own heart. Who does this? Who encourages everyone to be a textual critic by making it easier for them to “delete” the holy words of God as they see fit? And these are the fellows who preach sermons on convictions versus preferences.

Now this is all really funny considering that it is coming out of the mouths of some fundamentalists.

In case you’re new to the business, fundamentalists go out of their way to tell you exactly what’s the right kind of music, what’s the right kind of clothing, and what’s the proper length of your hair.

But when it comes to the Bible…

You can do pretty much anything you want.


Here’s another interesting comment. Liberty University’s Elmer Towns said:

It has been my privilege to serve on the Overview Committee for this translation. While I still preach only from the old King James Version, I heartily recommend the New King James Bible for study and clarification of archaic English terms.[18]

Why would he preach “only from the old King James Version” when no one could understand its archaic English? Not very considerate is it? Evidently, the Old King James Version is good enough to preach out of but not good enough to study? Go figure.

The real question isn’t whether or not the translators of the ©1982 NKJV did a good job at translation. They did.

The question is…

Did the Lord want it done in the first place?

Unless he wanted to:

  1. Dilute his long-standing brand, and
  2. Compete with Himself,

The answer has to be … An emphatic … No.

[1] Wikipedia, “The Trump Organization,” last modified November 29, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trump_Organization.

[2] Barna Research, “Data and Trends: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions,” data collated from several surveys through 1998 (Available: http://web.archive.org/web/19990508110144/http://www.barna.org/PageStats.htm).

[3] Kenneth Barker, “The American Translations of the Bible,” Helpmewithbiblestudy.org, accessed December 2012, http://helpmewithBiblestudy.org/5Bible/TransTheAmericanTranslations_Barker.aspx.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Funding Universe, “Thomas Nelson, Inc. History,” Accessed December 2012, http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/thomas-nelson-inc-history/.

[6] More than 60 million units have been sold in the past 30 years. Lighthouse Christian Bookstore, “NKJV Study Bible: Second Edition,” accessed December 2012, http://www.thelighthousechristianbookstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781418548674.

[7] Thomas Nelson Corporate web site (Available: http://www.thomasnelson.com/consumer/dept.asp?dept_id=1118916&TopLevel_id=100000).

[8] Holy Bible: The New King James Version, Old Time Gospel Hour edition (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1234.

[9] Holypop, “What Does the Bible Say? New King James Bible Translation,” accessed December 2012, http://www.holypop.com/answers/New_King_James_Bible_Translation.

[10] James D. Price, King James Onlyism: A New Sect (© James D. Price, 2006), preface.

[11] James D. Price, “A Response to D. A. Waite’s Criticism of the New King James Version,” September 1995 (Available: http://www.jamesdprice.com/newkingjamesversion.html).

[12] Laurence M. Vance, “The NRSV vs. the ESV,” accessed December 2012, http://www.av1611.org/vance/nrsv_esv.html.

[13] Al Maxey, “A View of the Versions: The Revised Standard Version, a Critical Analysis,” accessed December 2012, http://www.zianet.com/maxey/Ver3.htm

[14] Wikipedia, “Revised Standard Version,” last modified December 2, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revised_Standard_Version#Criticism_of_the_RSV.

[15] New King James Version, Old Time Gospel Hour edition, 1235.

[16] Price James D. A Response to D. A. Waite's Criticism of the New King James Version September, 1995 p. 8 citing Report on the Making of the Version of 1611 Presented to the Synod of Dort, November 16, 1611. http://www.jamesdprice.com/newkingjamesversion.html

[17] Ibid. p.11.

[18] Holypop, “What Does the Bible Say?”